Review: SUPERMAN #22
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Kevin Maguire
Colours: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Dave Sharpe
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Superman #22: The battle for the United Planets hits a fever pitch as the galactic conqueror Mongul beats some of the rulers of the galaxy to death and then heads for Earth! The only thing standing in his way? Superman! Meanwhile, back on Earth, the truth that Clark Kent is Superman continues to spiral out all over the world, and now the Daily Planet’s competition is gunning for his wife, Lois Lane!
I think the best part of Superman #22 is the fight between Superman and Mongul. Superman is one of the most even-tempered characters in fiction, so it’s easy to forget how scary he can be when he’s angry. And Mongul has made the monumental mistake of making the Man of Steel mad by attacking the newly-formed United Planets, then turning his attention to Earth.
Ordinarily, Superman and Mongul are evenly matched in a fight, but when an enraged Clark stops holding back, he absolutely crushes Mongul and obliterates his Warworld. This issue gives a good illustration of what Superman is capable of when he goes all out.
I also liked seeing him and Lois sharing some time together after the battle. The dialogue between the couple is is natural and shows that Bendis knows how to write a couple in love.
Even though I had some sever problems with Bendis’ story, I found Kevin Maguire’s art quite pleasing. His art was especially effective at conveying how truly terrifying the prospect of an enraged Man of Steel can be.
However, I don’t think Bendis has a clue how diplomacy and politics work. Cameron Chase informs Lois that the United Nations called “an emergency special secret World Security Council vote” and granted Superman “sanctioned intergalactic representational authority. Rectroactively”.
This seems a very pat answer to the situation, maybe even a deus ex machina. I can imagine that several member countries in the UN would not want an American to be the planet’s official representative to the rest of the universe. And even he was the official ambassador, he still should have brought a momentous decision such as membership in the United Planets back to Earth for a proper vote. The Daily Star isn’t exaggerating by much by asking “Who Died And Made Superman King?”.
I doubt very much that even with someone as universally trusted as Superman would get that easy a pass for taking it upon himself to make a world-changing decision on behalf of the planet, without consulting the powers that be.
I really like the idea of the United Planets, and it was a great idea for Bendis to have Superman and Superboy involved in its founding. But I find this element of the story very hard to swallow. It’s totally unlike Clark assuming he has the authority to make such a decision. And I doubt the official UN response would be “Yeah, that makes sense. We should have given him that authority earlier”.
I was also somewhat bewildered by Lois telling Clark that she forgot the message that Cameron Chase told her to pass on to him. I can’t believe that Lois is so scatterbrained to forget this warning. And I can’t see any conceivable reason for her to conceal it from Clark. I could see her saying something like “Let’s talk about it later” if she didn’t want to interrupt the moment. But Lois mentioned that Chase left a message for Superman, so I’m sure he’s likely to check with her himself later. It probably would have been better just not to mention the message in their conversation than add this puzzling piece of dialogue.
Bendis’ run on Superman has been something of a mixed bag for me. Some of his ideas have truly been great. But some of the changes he has made in service to his story have been horrible. I really love the introduction of the United Planets. But Bendis could have, and should have, accomplished this without questionable retcons and characters acting dramatically out of character.